OK, dammit. What the hell? What kind of crap is this?
This is how last night’s game between the Nuggets and Wizards ended. As you can see, the Nuggets, down 112-110, grabbed a defensive rebound and initiated a 4-on-1 fast break. Is that a scenario that should have presented the Nuggets with a great opportunity to tie or win the game? Well, I spent all of last night and this morning running the numbers through various proprietary algorithms and models, and my findings are clear: You’d have to be a team of real big dumbasses to not get a bucket out of that situation!
To the Nuggets’ credit, they are well aware of how thoroughly they beefed this one. Jamal Murray, who got caught between wanting to shoot and wanting to pass and ended up rolling a weak one to Facu Campazzo, tweeted an apology after the game. Then he tortured himself a bit with a screenshot:
Nobody wants to slide too far into the curmudgeonly territory where shouts about analytics ruining NBA basketball are the loudest. And yet, it is very hard to watch three players scurry behind the three-point line, while there is nothing but open space and a free two points in front of them, and not come to the conclusion that maybe there is something a little, uh, off about how basketball is being coached these days. Don’t take it from me! Take it from Michael Porter Jr.:
“Another thing in basketball is the first person out in transition, run to the corner,” he said. “And that’s what we teach. You usually run to the corner. … Usually, when you’re running in transition, you’re thinking, ‘Man, get to that corner for that three.’”The Denver Post
The blame can’t fall exclusively on Denver’s coaches, though. Sure, maybe Porter has been told 1,000 times to run to the corner in a 4-on-1 fast break, but in this specific situation a player should be able to figure out on the fly that it is in fact wise to break protocol and just go to the dang hoop.
The thing is, this kind of thing happens multiple times in just about every NBA game now. Usually nobody gets too bent out of shape about it, though, because the play either ends with a made three or some half-hearted grumbling by the play-by-play announcer if the shot misses. So maybe it’s not entirely fair to hold this play up as an indictment of modern basketball just because it happened at the end of a two-point game rather than in the middle of a 12-point game.
On the other hand: What the fuck were you doing, Nuggets!!! Jesus Christ!!